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April 27, 2011

Shun Lee West Restaurant Shuns Shark Fin Soup

Humane Society International

WASHINGTON—Humane Society International and The Animal Welfare Institute applaud Shun Lee West restaurant of New York City for removing shark fin soup from its menu. AWI and HSI have for years been campaigning for restaurants in the United States to stop selling shark fin products and consumers from purchasing them. Shun Lee West is a favorite restaurant for tourists and theater goers due to its prominent location by New York’s Lincoln Center.

“I received many calls urging us to stop selling shark fin soup because of the horrible way sharks are killed. I realized that it would be better for my business and for sharks to remove shark fin soup from the menu,” said Henry Nuesch, operations manager for Shun Lee West.

“There is increasing support for shark protection as seen most recently in a survey in which more than 80 percent of the Hong Kong residents interviewed support a ban on the shark fin trade. Humane Society International applauds Shun Lee West for standing at the forefront of this movement by removing shark fin products from its menu,” said Iris Ho, wildlife campaign manager for HSI.

At least 55 restaurants in New York City currently sell shark fin soup. The dish is on the menus of hundreds of restaurants in the United States although some states have acted to ban the controversial dish. Hawaii, The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam have all banned the possession, sale and trade of shark fins and California, Oregon and Washington State have all introduced similar legislation.

“Shun Lee West is setting a great example for other popular restaurants and the public by taking this important step,” said AWI wildlife research associate Serda Ozbenian. “Only when the demand for shark products is reduced will sharks stop being inhumanely hunted and killed for their fins.”

Often the most expensive item on restaurant menus, shark fin soup is customarily served at Chinese weddings or banquets. The status symbol associated with consuming shark fins is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade. The dish is highly controversial because of the cruel and wasteful manner in which shark fins are harvested and the precarious status of many shark populations.

More than 73 million sharks are killed annually, primarily for their fins, which are often harvested through “finning,” a practice that involves slicing off the fins of a shark and discarding the animal at sea to drown or bleed to death. Unsustainable fishing methods have led some shark populations to decline by as much as 99 percent in recent decades.

Many restaurants, chefs, companies, celebrities and citizens are taking a stand against the consumption of shark fin products. As awareness grows, restaurants that continue to sell shark fin soup face the prospect of dwindling numbers of customers who just won’t tolerate shark fins on sale.

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Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. On the Web at hsi.org.

The Animal Welfare Institute was founded in 1951 and is dedicated to alleviating suffering inflicted on animals by humans. The AWI website lists contact information for restaurants currently selling the soup, urging consumers to voice their distaste to the management. View the list at awionline.org/sharkfinsoup

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